Newsletter May 2015
I felt both apprehensive and excited to start the 2014/15 WTA year as the only “veteran” on the WTA Office Team. I was a new President, joined by a new Vice-President, Kristin Insull, the WTA’s new MTS Staff Officer, Nancy Kerr and our new Administrative Assistant, Michael Krauss. I could not have fulfilled the duties of this position without their daily support, advice, encouragement, suggestions, ideas and plans mixed with a healthy dose of good humour and teamwork. I would like to begin this report by thanking each of them for their contributions to the organization and specifically for supporting me as a new President.
Kristin Insull not only completed all the tasks that are usually assigned to the Vice-President, but she also took on the role of WPSH Chair and immersed herself in provincial legislation, WSD policy reporting systems and related concerns. She is gaining valuable bargaining experience at the negotiations table as well as spear-heading many major projects related to our goal of increased member engagement. I want to thank her and give her the recognition she deserves. In addition, I am proud that she was appointed to the MTS Provincial Executive in October, 2014. It is important to have our voice heard at that table, as our members comprise approximately 20% of the provincial membership. Kristin also possesses many useful qualities that I do not – a near photographic memory, advanced math skills and a strong belief in the value of taking care of one’s physical health. She is helping me with the last one!
Nancy Kerr has been indispensible and incredibly helpful as our Business Agent. On a daily basis when we address concerns and questions from members, I am grateful for Nancy’s invaluable expertise. We are fortunate to have her at the bargaining table as she has many years of experience in this area as well.
Michael did a fantastic job of running the office throughout the year. It would be impossible to list everything that he has accomplished and completed. He keeps us organized as we move through the administrative annual cycle. Michael’s many years of experience has helped him to pick up on the existing practices of the organization and initiate new projects.
Thank you to the 2014/15 Executive members, for the time and energy that you have invested in the organization on behalf of the membership, and for the sacrifice you make when you were away from your family and friends. Also, thank you to our Council Representatives who faithfully attend monthly Council meetings and act as a crucial and important link to members.
AGM recap from WTA perspective
Thank you to Michelle Wolfe, Chairperson of the AGM committee. She and her committee organized an effective and production assembly of MTS AGM delegates who did an excellent job representing the Association at the 2015 Provincial Council. They contributed to the development of provincial policy affecting membership rates, disability benefits plan premiums and other matters that directly affect our membership along with all of the other public school teachers in the province.
WTA sponsored resolution
The sole WTA sponsored resolution was adopted by Provincial Council: MTS will study the impact of technology on teacher workload. MTS will establish a committee including representation from other groups, such as the Manitoba School Boards Association and Manitoba Association of School Superintendents. The resolution called for a comprehensive study on the availability and effectiveness of computer technology. The study shall include, but not be limited to, the impact of technology usage on teacher workload, teacher burnout, lesson preparation and communications with parents. In its support of the idea, the WTA said that there have been positive results from the introduction of technology and it has become a vital and indispensable educational tool. However, when certain technologies are introduced, they increase teachers’ workload. Often the technology does not function in the way it is intended and sometimes it is not accessible or available when needed. A report is to be presented to next year’s Annual General Meeting.
New MTS Provincial Executive elected
Congratulations to Kristin Insull, WTA Vice-President, who was elected to the MTS Provincial Executive. WTA members will be well served by having her at the provincial table overseeing the work done for Manitoba’s public school teachers.
James Bedford (Louis Riel Teachers’ Association) was elected Vice-President of MTS at the Society’s AGM.
Delegates also elected nine teachers as members at large on the Provincial Executive.
The full executive for the coming year is:
- Norm Gould (St. James-Assiniboia)
- James Bedford (Louis Riel)
Members at large:
- Ray Desautels (St. James-Assiniboia)
- Frank Reeves (River East Transcona)
- Richard Alarie (AEFM)
- Mary Chalmers (Border Land)
- Jeff Cieszecki (Seven Oaks)
- Ashleigh Deeley (Pembina Trails)
- Darren Hardy (Brandon)
- Kristin Insull (Winnipeg)
- Bob Kriski (Portage la Prairie)
- Jonathan Waite (Seine River)
- Bea Walker (Flin Flon)
Looking Ahead to Next Year
September 2014 was the first time since I started Kindergarten that I have not been in a classroom come fall. Time passes differently when you’re not in the classroom – there are less checkpoints along the way – no 100 day celebrations, exams, report cards or parent-teacher interviews – to measure progress of the year. Yet, though the work done in the WTA Office is very different than that of a classroom teacher, I am looking forward to a break and some time spent lounging in the sun.
I am excited to return to the position of WTA Vice-President for the 2015-16 school year. While I certainly miss teaching, I believe that the work we are doing here is extremely important for the health and welfare of members and the cause of public education. Though slow at times, and necessarily incremental, small changes are adding up in the way we conduct our Association. We are focusing some time and energy on environmental stewardship – our Executive is going paperless as of September 2015. Also in the works are information sessions prior to Council, speakers at Council, workshops, and more relevant and timely information being shared via the website.
I am also excited to return to the Provincial Executive of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society. Given that WTA members account for over 20% of Manitoba’s teachers, it is important to have representation at that table. Heading into an uncertain political future in Manitoba, we are stronger if we stand together with all Manitoban teachers. I look forward to working for you on both levels – locally and provincially.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t express my gratitude to those who have supported my transition from classroom to WTA Office – Nathan and I make a good team, and I appreciate the patience and humour of his wife. Michael Krauss not only keeps the office humming, but keeps us sane in moments of stress with his witty remarks. Nancy Kerr, a powerful advocate for our members, has been an invaluable resource, a sounding board, the voice of reason, and a kind friend. In the interest of brevity (and because they are less likely to actually read this!), I thank my family and friends who have helped me to grow in this new opportunity.
At the time I write this, I am sitting and relaxing after a busy three days of the business of the society, debate, questions, presentations, reports, and networking.
On May 21st, 22nd, and 23rd, 48 delegates and two alternates attended the Annual General Meeting of The Manitoba Teachers Society at the Fairmont Winnipeg Hotel.
At the meeting, WTA delegates presented and passed our resolution seeking to form a multi-levelled ad hoc committee to study the impact of technology on teachers and their workload.
Our Vice President, Kristin Insull, was a WTA nominated candidate for the MTS Provincial Executive. She gave a speech to the delegation and answered questions along with other candidates from around the province. Kristin was one of nine individuals elected to the Provincial Executive.
All in all, a successful AGM. For more highlights of AGM2015, please see www.mbteach.org
Special thanks to the AGM committee and the WTA delegates for their work and dedication. None of this would have happened without all of the people involved. Thank you!
Henry Shyka Honoured with MTS Life Membership
The following resolution honouring Henry Shyka with Life Membership in The Manitoba Teachers’ Society was carried by Provincial Council at the 2015 MTS Annual General Meeting. The resolution was co-sponsored by The Seven Oaks Teachers’ Association and The Winnipeg Teachers’ Association.
The Seven Oaks Teachers’ Association with the Winnipeg Teachers’ Association are proud to nominate Henry Shyka for Life Membership in the Manitoba Teachers’ Society.
Henry began his teaching career in 1972, teaching at St. Andrews School. Henry has been active with the Lord Selkirk Teachers Association starting in 1980. Henry’s many roles on the local Executive included member at large, Education Finance Chair, Vice President and then President. Henry was elected for Provincial Executive in 1985 and contributed 4 years to the Society’s Welfare Service Steering Committee.
In 1989, Henry was nominated as a candidate for the MTS Vice President election. However on the eve of the AGM and that election Henry accepted the position of a Staff Officer.
Henry was a MTS Staff Officer for 25 years. In his first 5 years he was responsible for bargaining for 21 locals in the Western and Central regions. Some city-based bargaining certificates were also added to his portfolio before his portfolio moved to the city where he became the business agent of Winnipeg Teachers’ Association and Staff Officer to Seven Oaks Teachers’ Association.
Some positions in life inherently offer opportunities to make a difference to public education by contributing to the safeguarding of teachers’ welfare. As the WTA business agent, Henry had many occasions to do just that. He was a champion for many individual members whose personnel cases were served up daily. He was the steward of every bargaining process undertaken during the past two decades in WTA. Council Representatives, Executive members and Table Officers all drew on his counsel, expertise and experience. To the benefit of Winnipeg Teachers Association, many notable arbitrations were won during his tenure, including the one restricting the work-day to 5½ hours per day, an unfair labour practice in response to the Comprehensive Assessment Program (CAP), and religious holy leave. These are only a few of the arbitrations in addition to many others that also made successful advancements in the context of personnel cases.
Henry set up the process of monthly meetings between the Winnipeg Teacher’s Association and the Human Resources Director. He also initiated on-going, regularly scheduled, face to face meetings with superintendents. One of the first teachers’ early retirement incentives plan in Canada was spear-headed by Henry. He was responsible for moving our Disability Benefits Plan from management by a private insurance company to being administered by teachers where it is now much more responsive and service oriented for our members.
Henry served on the Pension Task force for 20 years and was the chairperson from 1999 – 2014. His responsibilities included negotiating plan amendments to the Teachers’ Pension Plan with the Manitoba Government. Henry also served as a board member and on the investment committee for the Teachers Retirement Allowances Fund from 2001-2014.
Henry has bargained many collective agreements in Seven Oaks, and recently returned to SOTA in 2013 as the Association Staff Officer dealing with Negotiations to bargain his final successful collective agreement less than a month before Henry retired.
It is with great pleasure that Seven Oaks Teacher’s Association and the Winnipeg Teachers’ Association put Henry Shyka’s name forward for Life Membership to the Manitoba Teachers’ Society.
On behalf of past and current members of the Winnipeg Teachers’ Association, we congratulate Henry on his receipt of Life Membership in The Manitoba Teachers’’ Society.
Winnipeg Teacher’s Association
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue
561 Wellington Crescent
Doors open at 6:30 PM
Ceremonies start at 7:00 PM
$15 at the door for admission, food and refreshments
For more information, contact the WTA Office at 204-831-7104
2015 CAPSLE CONFERENCE REPORT
It was my privilege this year to attend the CAPSLE conference in Kelowna, BC this year as a representative of the Winnipeg Teachers Association. Over the three day conference, I learned more about the legal and educational issues facing our colleagues in British Columbia; how union representation can be effective when a member finds themselves in trouble; the proper protocol used in Ontario for “problem” parents; and the development of the First Nations school division in BC. The most insightful session I attended was on teachers’ responsible conduct both on- and off-duty.
The presenters, Kerri Fisher and Stephanie Quelch, in-house counsel for the BC Teachers Federation, began the session by reminding us that teachers hold a special place in Canada. They stated, “Teachers embody a unique role in society. They occupy positions of trust, influence and authority over a particularly vulnerable segment of society and, as a result, greater scrutiny is placed on their personal and professional conduct.” So society expects a lot from its teachers. Not only are we required to impart to students the knowledge and skills they will require for fulfilling and productive careers, but also to imbue them with a range of values and aspirations that will enable their full participation in our social and political communities.
With these expectations, say Fisher and Quelch, comes an increasing examination and public sanction of teachers’ off-duty conduct that may be reaching overly invasive levels. The presenters did a brief overview of the structure of provincial and territorial teacher regulators and discussed their approach to professional discipline and publication of discipline findings. They then reviewed the fundamental principles guiding the regulatory approach of off-duty context and examined certain trends that have emerged in discipline decisions. The difficulty comes in how the judicial system balances an individual’s right to liberty and privacy, and the public’s interests.
A teacher may be disciplined by both their employer and their applicable regulatory body for actions engaged in during their personal time if it is determined that their conduct may negatively impact students, the employer or the public interest. Fisher and Quelch spoke of the Supreme Court decision in Ross v. New Brunswick School District No.15, where the Court articulated the reasoning for this increased level of scrutiny of off-duty teacher behaviour. The Court wrote: “Teachers occupy positions of trust and confidence and exert considerable influence over their students as a result of their positions. The conduct of a teacher bears directly upon the community’s perception of the ability of the teacher to fulfill such a position of trust and influence, and upon the community’s confidence in the public school system as a whole.”
When assessing the potential impact of a teacher’s private, off-duty conduct there are certain criminal acts such as possession of child pornography or sexual assault that can readily be viewed as causing significant and direct risk of harm from the very nature of the conduct. But, other less serious off-duty incidents require a balance of teachers’ right to privacy and the public’s confidence and trust in the education system. Based on previous cases that have been adjudicated either by the judicial system or the professional regulatory agencies in Canada, there are some identifiable “harms” that teachers should be aware of:
- Loss of public confidence and respect in the teacher and public school system.
- Loss of respect from students and other teachers.
- Controversy within school and education system which disrupts the education system.
- Recurrence of misconduct with resulting injury to students
- Danger that students may be influenced by inappropriate role models
- Diminution of teaching effectiveness due to loss of respect.
There are several decisions published by teacher regulatory bodies across Canada relating to the discipline of teachers who were found to have engaged in inappropriate off-duty conduct. Some of the trends and commonalities of these cases include:
- Conduct relating to social media
- Sexual misconduct – either unrelated or related to students
- Non-sexual criminal behaviour or charges
- Inappropriate behaviour towards colleagues
- Inappropriate boundaries with students (or former students)
It was interesting to listen to comments related to social media and the implications of regulatory discipline. In most cases, posts on social media or elsewhere in the public sphere that criticize colleagues or the employer, reveal private information about students or which generally reflect negatively on the school or employer, have become the subject of employment and regulatory discipline. In employment related decisions, arbitrators and judges have found the Facebook posts have a public dimension and cannot be construed as private, off-duty conduct even where a person’s settings are described as being set to “private.” In the regulatory context, teachers who post inappropriate photographs or comments or who make reference to private student information have been disciplined. For example, in 2014 the Ontario College of Teachers disciplined a teacher after she posted a photograph of herself to Facebookin which she was wearing “immodest” clothing and comments contained directly underneath the photograph identified her as a teacher.
In the end, Fisher and Quelch argued that teacher’s fundamental right to privacy is being diminished unjustly because of the public nature of the teaching profession. And though the trends of teachers being disciplined for their off-duty behaviours is not abating, the presenters encouraged all of us to be aware of the trends and to make reasonable choices about our on- and off-duty conduct.